When Joan Pate began working at HCO, she was familiar with the agency. Her daughter, Fawna, had already been receiving services from HCO.

Joan had first heard about HCO when she met fellow employee, Craig Thompson, socially in college and he told her about HCO. She was determined right then that she would try to get Fawna into HCO. Since then, one of her daughters has worked for HCO, and she currently has a grandchild working at HCO, too.

Joan has been with her current program for over 17 years, 16 of them in her current role as a Primary Counselor. Although she didn’t have a background in social work, she loves her job and says her English major helps with the paperwork.

Program Supervisor, Tonya Williamson, jokes that she hired Joan because she knew how to milk cows. Joan elaborates that when Fawna was in school, she often took odd jobs that offered some flexibility in case she had to leave during the day to get Fawna from school for some reason.

Joan is very fond of the four gentlemen she supports, sharing that they are all very sweet and enjoyable to be around.  The men range in age from their 20s to 50s.

Each day is a little different. On nice days, they often leave the house for a bike ride or a walk. Two of the men like to walk to Kwik Trip to get a can of pop. Their house is close to the bike path, and sometimes they will go that route. Other times, they just walk around the neighborhood or hike the bluffs or Latsch Island. In bad weather, they like to walk at the mall close to the house or drive out to Walmart. Joan says that it is so big that they get a really good walk there, plus, it helps her to scope out where things are for future shopping trips! Joan will also drive the men to dental and medical appointments. It is pretty helpful to have the same staff member or two take them each time to gain rapport with their medical providers. It also helps the staff member become more familiar with each person’s specific health needs.

The men take turns cooking in the evenings, and they enjoy getting to choose what they will make. The person who cooks that night also cleans up afterwards. Staff will provide some input to help them incorporate healthy options, including fruits and vegetables. One of the men loves to cook, but he hates most vegetables. He is also not a salad-lover, so he will often make coleslaw on the nights he cooks. “There are quite a few variations on coleslaw,” says Joan, wryly, with a smile.

Most evenings, the men participate in various activities once dinner and chores are done. One swims, two like to go bowling, and two like to visit the Humane Society to help feed and pet the animals. They enjoy going to dances: either adaptive dance or COMPASS dances. One of the men enjoys playing video games and isn’t as active, but he likes to do pull-ups and pedal the exercise bike while watching cartoons.

The men typically have plans with their families on the weekends, but if they don’t, staff will help them come up with ideas for fun activities they can participate in. Families often know their loved ones best, and staff frequently rely on their feedback to improve how to best meet the needs of the individuals being supported.

Though she has reached an age when she could retire, the guys at the house keep Joan working. In the last 17 years, one of the men who lived in the house passed away – a very difficult thing to go through – and one has moved to a more independent setting. He and Joan are still friends, and often go out to dinner to catch up on things. She says that they feel like a second family. While she always enjoys simply being able to spend time with the guys, she also says that there is a feeling that she is doing something positive for other people, not just taking up space in the workforce. “It’s a great feeling,” she says, “to see them advance – even with the smallest thing.”

Outside of work, Joan is busy with family – her four daughters, and many grandchildren – especially her youngest granddaughter, Micah, who lives in Rochester and is the current apple of Joan’s eye.